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Oakden patients could end up in EDs: Doctors' union

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SA Health has dismissed doctors' fears some patients from the condemned Oakden older person’s mental health facility could end up in emergency departments because the facility to which they are being transferred is not capable of dealing with acute mental health conditions.

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InDaily understands there are about 18 patients currently being treated at the the Makk and McLeay wards at the Oakden Older Person’s Mental Health Service. Most are to be transferred to the Northgate Aged Care facility.

The Government is scrambling to close Makk and McLeay as soon as possible – but not so quickly as to unnecessarily worsen patients’ conditions – following new allegations of staff assaulting patients last month.

SASMOA senior industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland told InDaily this morning that Northgate was ill-equipped to deal with the conditions suffered by patients from Makk and McLeay wards, which were likely to be “exacerbated” by the moves.

Mulholland claims patients whose conditions are “exacerbated” by their transfer are likely to be sent to hospital.

“They are too ill to put into a nursing home,” said Mulholland.

“[But] the last place that elderly people need to be is in an emergency department waiting for a bed.”

But SA Health says Northgate is capable of treating even the most seriously unwell patients that are currently cared for at Oakden.

“Northgate is able to accept complex tier 7 patients who are treated under the Guardianship Act,” an SA Health spokesperson said.

“Clinical Lead Dr Duncan McKellar is working closely with each family to ensure that every resident will live in a place that is appropriate for their care.

 “Under Dr McKellar’s leadership and new governance model we have improved lines of accountability to ensure that residents get the care that they need.”

Principal Community Visitor Maurice Corcoran told InDaily the new clinical managers at Oakden were undertaking intensive patient assessments to ensure they were transferred to appropriate facilities for their care.

Corcoran was key to the elevation of families’ concerns about Oakden to the head of the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network Jackie Hanson, who commissioned a report into Oakden by Chief Psychiatrist Aaron Groves.

“There is a lot of really detailed planning [being undertaken] with individual patients,” Corcoran said.

“The level of planning … is really quite intensive.”

Community visitors are due to visit the Oakden facility today.

However Corcoran said his office was seeking advice from Groves as to whether they can do so – because as of last week Makk and McLeay are no longer Approved Treatment Centres (ATC) under the Mental Health Act.

ATCs are able to treat and detain mental health patients involuntarily.

Mulholland said doctors were also concerned that there was no clear chain of responsibility for patient outcomes at Northgate, and that they were keen to ensure failures of accountability at the Oakden facility are not repeated there.

“One of the clear issues that we have had … is who has responsibility?” she said.

“We are yet to have articulated to the medical officers … who is going to be accountable and responsible.

“That still isn’t clear to us.”

The Government hopes to have all patients out of Makk and McLeay by next week.

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